With the Singapore General Elections polling day planned for May 7, many Singaporeans are gearing up for the once in a lifetime opportunity to vote. This election may see 82 of the 87 seats contested by Opposition, which means other than Tanjong Pagar, which is MM Lee’s ward, residents of all other GRCs and SMCs will experience some action.
And it is probably the hottest topic on Singaporeans’ mind for the last one month as the MPs of the current ruling party and those of the Opposition face off with each other on various points of their manifestos, or promises to the citizens if they get elected. You don’t get this kind of action often and is a great opportunity to learn more about nation building. The greatest tension comes from the possibility that PAP may lose a GRC for the first time.
I am not into politics but something brought up by Workers’ Party representative Dr Poh Lee Guan provoked some thoughts and hence this blog post. He said that ‘the real test for the PAP is the quality of life for Singaporeans since the 2006 General Election’. Here are my thoughts on this as an average middle income Singaporean, married with three children.
1. The number of foreigners in Singapore has become unbearable! There was once when I noticed them only when I am in the CBD or certain parts of Singapore where there is a large concentration of foreign worker dormitories. However over the last two years, I see them in my workplace, on the over-crowded trains, at the shopping centres, in the suburbs, to the extent that my feeder bus driver is from China and speaks not a single word of English! Once the government said we needed foreign workers as there are many jobs that Singaporeans do not want to take up, I could live with that.
But when my ex-employer brought in a Filipino instead of a Singaporean to work alongside with me and earns almost as much as I do, something is very wrong. It is not just about finding cheap labour, it is how easy it is for the HR department of MNCs to share database across borders and employ a foreigner instead of a local. There is no more job security for Singaporeans.
Of course, we can look at it as the effects of globalisation of which tiny Singapore may not have much control over. My ex-employer has since moved their operations to KL where it is cheaper to hire two Malaysians than one Singaporean to do the same job. So it’s either we continue to compete and upgrade ourselves or we simply die out.
2. While the growth rate of Singapore Permanent Residents is exponential, the fertility rate of Singaporeans is a dismal 1.16. We are not producing enough babies to even replace ourselves and that is probably why the government has to encourage immigrants or our economy will suffer. I remember reading a book which predicted that come 2030, 50% of the Singapore population will be made up of foreigners and that scares me.
Many years ago, I was in Kuwait as a stopover to Turkey. The hotel staff fixing my leaking toilet told me that 90% of the population in the city are foreigners. I wonder if one day that will be the eventual future of our tiny island state if we do not boost our fertility rates. Will Singapore become the CBD of ASEAN where people come here to work and invest but rather live elsewhere.
What will happen to the authentic Singaporean who live by the principles of kiasu, kia see, kia bo? Or perhaps that kind of mentality is the reason why Singaporeans will be extinct within the next 50 years.
3. As a mother of three, I can empathise with couples who rather not have children. The kind of sacrifice required for a working mother on personal time is tremendous. A 9 – 6 job plus another 1 – 2 hours of ‘compulsory’ overtime, hectic commuting, the stress that comes with early years of child raising, increasing lack of support from grandparents and sullenly envying more carefree colleagues who can do whatever they want with their time and money – this is not the kind of lifestyle that many young Singaporeans will aspire to lead despite their desire to have children.
Is it possible to support children on a single income in Singapore today? I believe so but would a modern well-educated woman be willing to stay home and look after her children morning to night, do household chores and put dinner on the table every single day without the assistance of a domestic helper in today’s society? I can say for one, I am not willing and I dare say that many more educated and sophisticated women would be less willing to do so. So not only is cost of living a concern, the mindset change, to spend one’s life for the sake of others is another barrier to increasing fertility rate in Singapore. And that is tragic.
4. Another observation would be the increasing lack of responsibility and initiative by Singaporeans to take charge of their lives and make a difference. I wonder if our government has done such a wonderful job of taking care of its people, that we have stopped to do anything for ourselves than to complain about minor annoyances and wait for a bill to be passed in Parliament. Since being in the public service, I am very annoyed at some of the comments made about the public on social media networks about the government this, the government that.
Are we so helpless that just because our leaders have overlooked something, that we are handicapped to get it done ourselves? I believe in being proactive and constantly being on the lookout for opportunities rather than wait for it to arrive at my door. I believe God expects us to work hard to realise the wonderful gifts He has in store for us, rather than sit and wait for it to drop on our laps and complain that it doesn’t suit our needs when it finally does.
So in conclusion, how has my quality of life changed since 2006? It has become richer because of my three children, I am blessed to have bought a house and car while prices were low in 2005 – 2007 and our family was never in fear of financial difficulty. But if I really examine these blessings, they really were gifts as a result of personal decisions made through sacrifice, tenacity and wisdom. I don’t think I have the benefit of a macro view of how government policies made it possible.
But having said this, I wonder at my own future opportunities in Singapore and that for my three children who are just in their budding age. Would this be a place I want them to live and grow up in come 10 – 20 years’ time? If Singapore becomes overrun with foreigners in order to stay competitive globally, I will no longer find it relevant to stay here. There is no point if I end up becoming a minority in my own country.